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How Is Fault Determined In Car Collision Cases?

Learn how fault for auto collisions is generally determined in Colorado

Some types of car crashes are clearly one driver’s fault. For instance, drivers who rear end another vehicle are almost always found to be liable for any injuries or damage suffered by the other driver. This may be true even when the car in front unexpectedly stops because all drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care when driving, which includes making sure to keep a safe distance between themselves and nearby cars.

However, it is also not uncommon for more than one party to contribute to a crash. In these situations, it can be difficult to determine what percentage of fault each party is responsible for, so if you live in Colorado and were injured in a car crash, it is important to contact an experienced car crash attorney who can help you seek compensation for your medical expenses and other losses.

Police Reports

Although it can be difficult, determining who was primarily at fault in causing a crash is critical to the success of a case. This is due to the fact that Colorado adheres to the legal theory of modified comparative fault, which reduces the amount of compensation that an injured party is able to collect by his or her own percentage of fault. For this reason, completing an in-depth investigation into the cause of a crash is may be of paramount importance.

Generally, an investigative team begins this process by establishing whether one of the parties violated a legal duty or a specific state law. This usually begins with obtaining an official copy of the police report written by the officers who responded to the crash. Generally, law enforcement officers stop at the scene of any crash that involves injuries. However, even if the police do not show up, the parties will have to report the crash to a nearby police station. Investigators will also be able to obtain a copy of this report.

The information contained in crash reports can be crucial to a plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate that the other party was at fault. For example, a police officer may include a notation in the report indicating that based on the length of the skid marks at the scene of the crash, one of the vehicles was most likely speeding at the time of the collision. Officers will also indicate whether they issued a traffic ticket to one of the drivers, indicating a defendant violated a law and so is at least partly responsible for the crash.

Additional Evidence

Gathering as much evidence as possible is often key to proving that a defendant caused or significantly contributed to a crash. To this end, investigators usually attempt to collect the following types of evidence:

  • The official police report;
  • Statements from any witnesses who saw the crash occur;
  • Photographs of the scene of the crash, including relevant measurements;
  • Photographs of the damage done to both of the vehicles;
  • Footage from recordings taken by traffic cameras; and
  • Medical records showing the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Investigators also note the exact location of the crash, which can be crucial in determining who was at fault. For instance, if a car turned left in an intersection and was struck by a vehicle coming the other way, investigators can check the records indicating which lights were showing at the time of the crash.

If the car that struck the turning vehicle had a green light, it will be much more difficult for the defendant to establish that he or she was not at fault. However, if camera footage indicates that the driver traveling straight through the intersection was speeding, he or she may be assessed a percentage of fault for contributing to the crash.

Breaching a Legal Duty

All drivers are required to operate their cars in a reasonable way. This includes seeing what can be seen, keeping a lookout for dangers that can be seen (e.g., other cars), maintaining a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you, and complying with all traffic laws. While one driver’s decision to speed or run a red light is evidence that he or she was not driving reasonably, investigators and legal teams also seek to address whether either party had the opportunity to avoid the crash, but failed to do so.

For instance, if one driver rear ended another vehicle that stopped unexpectedly in the middle of the road, but could have avoided the crash if he or she had not been adjusting the radio, he or she may be found to have contributed to the crash.

Comparative Fault

Colorado is a modified comparative fault state, which means that even when an injured driver partially caused or contributed to a crash, he or she can still recover damages. However, this is only possible when the injured party was less than 50 percent at fault. In these situations, the injured party will not be able to collect any compensation from the other driver, even if his or her contribution to the crash was only 51 percent.

Because there is so much at stake in crashes where both parties contributed to a crash, it is especially important that injured parties retain an attorney who can help compile evidence that demonstrates that he or she was only marginally at fault. Proving this will allow a victim to collect compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and the pain and suffering that he or she had to endure as a result of the crash.

Contact us Today to Speak With an Experienced Car Crash Attorney

Determining who caused a car crash is not always as simple as it may seem. Collecting compensation from a party (or their insurer) who refuses to settle requires a thorough investigation as well as an in-depth analysis of all relevant evidence.

Failing to properly collect this evidence, including photographs, witness statements, and police reports can have devastating consequences for victims injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, so if you have questions about your own case, please contact the legal team at McCormick & Murphy, P.C., by calling 719-249-0541 today or by sending us a brief message. Please contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.